A Day In The Life Of A Refugee

Florentine is one of over 50,000 residents of Kyakya II refugee settlement in Uganda. She found her new home here at the end of 2016, escaping the violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Florentine is a mother of two, a six and a three-year-old. One of her children is paralysed since birth, which makes her life as a refugee additionally challenging.

“It took us three days to reach Uganda. I was carrying one child, and my husband, the other one. We didn’t bring much with us from our home back in North Kivu, DRC. The journey was difficult and like so many refugees I know, we were robbed of our belongings while walking towards Uganda. Initially we were wearing shoes but our feet got so sore after days of walking that we had to take them off and continue barefoot,” remembers Florentine. Florentine told us how she spends her days in the settlement.

  • 5:00 a.m. Florentine gets up at 5:00 a.m., starting her day by cleaning the house and sweeping the frontage. It takes her about half an hour to complete the sweeping. It’s early in the day, the air is still fresh and her children are asleep.

  • 5:30 a.m. At about 5.30 am, she cleans the kitchen utensils. She proudly says that the kitchen utensils rack and the soap she is using were given to her by Oxfam in order to improve hygiene while preparing food. “Without a rack, the dishes were impossible to keep clean, there is dust and soil everywhere. I learnt from Oxfam how to keep things clean, from dishes to the bathing shelter and latrine” she says.

  • 6:00 a.m. Florentine lights up the stove and starts preparing porridge for her children. “We have a big problem preparing the food here,” she says, “mainly due to the shortage of wood and charcoal. At times it’s impossible to light up the stove, especially during the rainy season. We could go without food for two days per week, every week.”

    “Life here can get difficult but I intend to stay in Uganda. I saw too many killings and rapes of women and girls in the DRC. I cannot go back,” she says firmly.

  • 9:00 a.m.  After preparing the porridge and feeding her children, Florentine heads downhill to fetch some water. Normally she fetches five 20-litre jerrycans every day. “It’s an extremely tiresome activity because the nearest borehole is down the hill, which means I am climbing up carrying full jerry cans. Sometimes I simply lack the energy to do it three times a day. The long queues at the borehole, especially in the afternoon, additionally make me tired,” Florentine explains.

    “In other families, children could help carrying a jerry can in the afternoon, when they are done with school, but my older son cannot move,” she tells me in a sad voice. “Better medical care for my child is all I really wish for,” says Florentine. “There has been no improvement in his condition. The way he arrived at the settlement is the way he is today, completely paralysed.”

  • 10:30 a.m. At this time, Florentine starts preparing lunch. “Posho and beans. This is what we eat every day, be it for lunch be it for dinner, posho and beans. I can’t afford buying any other food," she explains.

  • 2:00 -3:00 p.m. After lunch with her family, Florentine shoulders a jerrycan and goes to fetch the water for washing utensils and clothes and for bathing the children. Washing clothes is a daily activity that can take anything between 20 minutes and one hour. “We don’t have many pieces of clothing, so I need to wash them regularly, especially for my children,” Florentine explains.

  • At about 3.30pm, Florentine fetches the last two jerry cans of water that suffice for the rest of the day. In order to have safe drinking water, she receives water purification tablets from Oxfam.

  • At 4:00pm, Florentine starts preparing the supper, posho and beans, that she normally serves at 7pm. At times she adds some vegetables and fruits from her small garden behind the house. “Oxfam taught me how to maintain the garden correctly and gave me the seeds to plant,” she says.

    By 8.30pm, the settlement gets quiet and the light inside the house is scarce. Florentine and her family are ready to go to sleep and prepare for a new day. “Days here tend to be repetitive, there are many chores to be done and some of them require much more time than one would think. Fetching the water, preparing food, lighting up the stove…all these activities are extremely time consuming here in the settlement. But at least we are still alive and with hope for the future.”